Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Inability to empathise

Even in the face of global pressure.  The Pope used his Christmas message to the world this year to claim that back in the 70s the sexual abuse of children was considered perfectly normal, acceptable and was generally condoned by society as not being absolutely evil.  Children agreed with this opinion too, he says:

In the 1970s, paedophilia was theorised as something fully in conformity with man and even with children.

The 70s I grew up in was very different.  In the UK, it was a time of particular – if largely misdirected – fear of paedophilia.  There were numerous TV adverts warning children not to talk to strangers or to get into their cars.  There was a long-lasting national campaign.  I don’t remember anyone condoning child rape, least of all children. 

That last sentiment is a terrifying one.  How could anyone imagine that a child would wish to be abused or even to be sanguine about it?  Well, I think they’d have to be a psychopath. They’d need to be entirely incapable of empathising with the plight of a small child having frightening and often painful things done to it in an environment of secrecy and threat.

To his credit, the Pope regrets the widespread abuse carried out by his church:

The Pope said abuse revelations in 2010 reached “an unimaginable dimension” which brought “humiliation” on the Church.

In other words, he regrets it.  He regrets the humiliation of the church.  He’s still not concerned about the victims.

Barbara Blaine is the head of SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) and makes an excellent response:

The Pope insists on talking about a vague ‘broader context' he can't control, while ignoring the clear ‘broader context' he can influence — the long-standing and unhealthy culture of a rigid, secretive, all-male Church hierarchy fixated on self-preservation at all costs. This is the ‘context’ that matters.

But in any case, this is all beside the point.  The Pope’s argument boils down to “well everyone else was doing it”.  I hardly need point out the intellectual and moral paucity of this argument. 

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